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Strong east winds tumble buildings and boats around Iliamna Lake

Evelynn Trefon

Communities around Iliamna Lake dealt with gale force winds last week. Residents say they saw sheds and smokehouses lifted from the ground and skiffs tumbled “like they were toys.”

Strong east winds swept over the Bering Sea and through Southwest Alaska last Friday. They hit communities around Lake Iliamna especially hard. Residents in Kokhanok say they experienced gusts over 100 miles per hour.

“It was so bad here,” said Peducia Andrew, utilities clerk and president of the Kokhanok Village Council. “There were houses that were kind of blown off their foundation and some of the smokehouses here that were kind of knocked over, and there skiffs, our Lunds, 18-footers, were just toppling around like they were toys.”

Several houses there lost electricity for a couple of days because of power line damage.

Across the lake, Newhalen and Iliamna also saw some smokehouses toppled and damage to buildings. The National Weather Service recorded gusts of 67 miles per hour at the Iliamna airport. Newhalen residents reported gusts over 70 miles per hour.

“You would walk outside and it would try to literally take you backwards,” said Newhalen resident Evelynn Trefon. “A Conex shed building that was blown over in Iliamna, it was actually picked up off of whatever kind of foundation they had and thrown on top of the Conexes right next to it.”

Credit Evelyn Trefon
The winds ripped part of a roof off a house in Newhalen.

Despite the high winds, the Iliamna-Newhalen-Nondalton Electric Cooperative’s power lines fared well. General Manager, George Hornberger had a simple explanation for why their power lines were able to weather the storm with no outages.

“Our overhead powerlines here in Newhalen have what’s called airflow spoilers on them. They’re like a plastic rod that wraps around the power lines that kills the lift on the power lines and keeps them from slapping together. Since we put them in about eight years ago, we have not blown a fuse on our overhead powerlines due to wind,” said Hornberger.

Villages around the Iliamna Lake saw gale force winds with maximum sustained wind speeds of over 40 miles per hour.

Contact the author at avery@kdlg.org or 907-842-5281.

Credit Evelyn Trefon
The waters of Iliamna Lake were rough on December 22, 2017.